Howdy, Internets! How about a free short story to celebrate this day before Friday?
Last month I spent some time on the Oregon coast, mostly for workshops, but this time the weather and my schedule cooperated, and I got some quality beach time. This story was inspired by some of that time I spent on the beach.
Names in the Sand
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed
Cover photograph by the author, layout by Thunder Valley Press
Cissy wrapped her leather jacket more firmly around her shoulders and tried not to think about what the wind was doing to her hair. She’d saved up for months for a trip to the beach. She’d be damned if the cold snap was going to stop her from enjoying the sound of the surf and the sea birds, and the laughter of the few brave kids out on the sand playing keep-away with the waves.
At least the sun was out, not that it was doing all that much good to keep her warm. She’d dressed in layers, something menopausal women learned to do for self-preservation against unexpected hot flashes. She could use a good hot flash right about now. Even with the leather jacket on top of her windbreaker on top of her sweatshirt on top of her blouse, she was still freezing. If she didn’t warm up soon, she’d have to give up staring at the ocean from behind the concrete retaining wall that separated the parking lot from the beach a good ten feet below, and go watch the waves from the warmth of her car.
The kids on the beach didn’t seem to feel the cold. Cissy watched a group of teenagers — two girls and three boys — tramp across the sand wearing nothing but shorts and t-shirts. The boys were carrying boogie boards, the girls beach towels. Wires trailed down from their ears to whatever MP3 players they had stuffed in their pockets. Cissy wondered if they even heard the sound of the waves over whatever music was popular with teenagers these days.
Someone had written a name on the sand — SPENCER — stomped out in huge, rambling letters above the high tide mark. The teenagers walked right through the letters, smearing the S and the tail of the P and taking the top off the E and the N before they headed down toward the waves, leaving the rest of the name alone.
What a shame. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to leave his name in the sand in a spot where the waves wouldn’t obliterate it. For a moment Cissy thought about going down to the beach and fixing the smeared letters, but her legs gave her trouble these days, and slogging through dry sand would make her calves ache for days. Poor Spencer, whoever he’d been, would have to settle for semi-posterity, at least until more children and teenagers and careless adults scuffed through his name entirely.
If Harry was still alive, he would have fixed the letters for her. Harry would have done anything for her, and he had for nearly thirty years. He’d even sat by her side on innumerable park benches and picnic benches and glider swings, nose buried in a book or snoring quietly behind dark glasses, while Cissy sat and enjoyed the outdoors, no matter where that outdoors happened to be. Sometimes she brought her crocheting with her, and sometimes she brought a book or a camera, but most of the time she just sat and watched the world go on around her.
This late spring visit to the Oregon coast was the first trip Cissy had taken since Harry passed away last November. Her friends thought she was nuts to make the trip by herself. Amanda was certain Cissy’s car would break down in some back roads town and she’d be set upon by thieves who’d think a middle-aged woman traveling alone was easy pickings. Nora thought Cissy would attract the attention of “unsavory types,” which in Nora’s book was anyone who didn’t have six figures in a money market account and houses on both coasts with a condo or two somewhere in the middle.
Cissy’s daughter was the only one who had simply wished Cissy a good time. “Have fun, Mom,” she’d said, her voice scratchy over the old cell phone Cissy refused to replace with one of the new smart phone models. “You deserve it.”
Cissy wasn’t so sure about that. How does a woman who wished for her husband to die deserve to have fun living the rest of her life without him?
(read the rest of the story here)